Just about everything is in short supply this holiday season.
The supply chain problems have led to shortages of all kinds of toys, including Hot Wheels, LOL Doll and Mario Kart race track sets.
So why not buy a nice knockoff if the toy or gadget is sold out?
The internet is full of knockoffs, but those copycat toys can be potentially dangerous.
Warning signs a toy is not the real thing
Nikki Flemming is with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). She says her agency is constantly working with Customs and Border Protection in an effort to pull dangerous counterfeits.
"The CPSC is actually is always looking, all year long, to keep consumers safe, but especially during your holiday time," she said.
Flemming reminds people that due diligence is important.
"Consumers should start with a seller they know and trust," she said. "Also, if the price is too good to be true, it could be counterfeit."
The CPSC says warning signs of a counterfeit toy include:
- The packaging looks different from what is found on sites like Amazon or at stores like Target
- Misspellings or grammatical mistakes on the packaging or in the product description
- The manufacturer's information is not clearly printed on the box, or there is no manufacturer listed
- The item is in stock, and the price is suspiciously low
Risks when buying a counterfeit
People may think there's no harm in buying a cheap imitation toy.
However, Flemming says many copycat toys are poorly made, contain sharp parts, or are painted with lead-based paint.
Some counterfeit toys also contain small parts that can be a choking hazard.
"CPSC's latest toy-related data shows about 150,000 hospital emergency room-treated injuries to children under the age of 14 and nine toy-related deaths in 2020," Fleming said.
Just recently, the CPSC and customs agents uncovered a major shipment of toys that contained dangerous levels of lead. But they suspect that shipment could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Consumers should read online reviews — both positive and negative cons — and try to buy from a major store, not an unknown seller, to protect themselves and others.
Consumers can also learn more about the warning signs and risks of counterfeits in the CPSC's News Release.
Bottom line? Sometimes that internet search for the almost perfect toy can result in much more than simply wasting your money.
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